Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Tale Of The Lost Wallet/Purse

In England, the word for a woman's wallet is purse. The English word for a purse is handbag. MadPriest and Mrs MadPriest explained this all to me. To aid understanding of the story for my international audience, I shall refer to the wallet as wallet/purse, with the US term first and the English word following. When I mean purse, I will use purse/handbag, again with the US usage coming first. Are you bored yet?

What I believe happened with my missing wallet/purse during my visit to England is that after I paid the taxi driver, I tried to put the wallet/purse back into my purse/handbag, and it must not have gone in completely, or it fell out, and I did not know it. My driver was a Muslim with a long, pointed, gray beard. He wore a hat similar to what I would have called a lady's pillbox hat back in the day. He looked dour and did not speak during the ride. Perhaps he did not speak English well.

Anyway, I was scheduled to go out to eat with Doorman-Priest and one of his delightful daughters that evening. I misread the time and was still in the shower when they arrived, and did not answer the door for a while, but I did eventually. What were they thinking? I started off with them in a state of embarrassment and confusion. We went to an Italian restaurant with very good food, and I was going to treat, but when the bill came, my wallet/purse was not in my purse/handbag. Of course, that meant no English money and no credit cards. DP paid the bill. Second misadventure.

We returned to the hotel and called the credit card companies to cancel the cards and then the police, to be on their records with my address in Leeds in the event that the wallet/purse was turned in. They asked how much money was in the wallet/purse, and I said between 120 and 170 pounds. The staff at the hotel were wonderful, very patient and helpful. Finally, at about 11:00 PM, I told DP and his daughter to go home. They had done all they could and beyond. Lovely beginning to our real life relationship, no?

I went to my room and went to bed, but I only got about two hours sleep all night, because I was wired over the loss, and I could not fall asleep. The next day, I had to catch a train fairly early in the morning, and that was on my mind, too. All of this happened on Friday, March 20, the day after my arrival. What were DP and Mrs DP thinking? Of course, they're too kind to ever say if they were having misgivings. I know what I would have been thinking. What's next with this woman!

I made up my mind then and there that I would not let the loss of the wallet/purse spoil my trip. I still had my traveler's checks with the bulk of my money left, and I thought perhaps I could get my American Express card replaced. I played Pollyanna's "Glad Game", which is a version of "counting your blessings" and focused on how much worse it could have been and carried on with my activities. I'm not sure how I would have paid my hotel bill, because the number I had given them was no longer good, but they said not to worry about it, so I didn't.

On Monday, I took a train to Manchester, the nearest place with an American Express office, and I was given a new card. On the way back, I took the wrong train, a train to Sheffield, instead of Leeds, and the trip back to Leeds took nearly twice as long because the train to Sheffield stopped at every village along the way, but the views of the Pennines were gorgeous, much more picturesque than the views on the way to Leeds. See. I'm still playing the "Glad Game", because Monday was pretty much a lost day for doing anything else. But I digress.

On Tuesday, I took a wonderful coach trip to Whitby, which I wrote about on the alternative blog, Wounded Bird Takes Flight. Back in Leeds, the coach dropped me off near a taxi queue, and the first taxi in the line was the car and driver in whose taxi I had left my wallet/purse. I didn't think or move quickly enough to ask him if he had found it, and he took off with the passenger ahead of me, but not before I got the number of his taxi.

I climbed into the taxi behind him and noticed that there was a police station right across the street, so I asked the driver to let me out. I mainly wanted to check to see if they had any news on the wallet/purse, not to turn the driver in, because I realized that a passenger in the taxi could have found it and made off with it. The taxi driver looked confused and asked why I wanted to get out, but I told him, "Just let me out, please."

I walked over to the police station to inquire. They had heard nothing, and I mentioned that I had the taxi number, but the officer was not interested, because she said that it could have been a passenger who took the wallet/purse, which I had already thought of. Bored yet? Just stop reading. I won't be offended.

I crossed the street and got into the next taxi in line, not the same one that I'd been in before. After we started, the driver asked me why I left the taxi in front of him and went into the police station. I asked him, "And why should I tell you that?" But I thought about it, and I decided that perhaps it would be a good thing for the taxi grapevine to have the information that I was in touch with the police, and I told him the whole story. The driver, who was also a Muslim, with a short, well-trimmed beard and a pillbox hat, said over and over, as I told the story, "Honesty is the best policy. Honesty is the best policy." I said, "Indeed! I hope that somehow an honest person gets hold of my wallet/purse and returns it. It was not only the money and credit cards, but all the other cards that would need replacing, such as my Social Security card and my health care cards." He asked me when I was returning to the US, and I told him on March 30.

Somehow, through all of this, I had a strong sense that the wallet/purse would be returned, although, on the face of it, it seemed less and less likely that I would get it back as each day passed. At the end of the day, when I returned to the hotel, I hoped, no, I expected to hear that it had been found.

On my very last evening, I heard a knock on my door, and there was a Muslim man standing in the hallway outside my door. I was startled and a little frightened, because I didn't think that hotels gave out room numbers. He asked me if I had lost a purse, and I answered that I had. I thought I recognized him as the second taxi driver to whom I told my story, but he was not wearing his hat, and I was not sure. He told me that as the taxi I lost the wallet/purse in was being cleaned out, the wallet/purse was found under the seat. He said, "You are leaving on the the 30th, aren't you?" Then I knew that he was the second driver. He pulled the wallet/purse out of his pocket and said, "See if it's all there." It seemed to be all there. There were 200 pounds in the billfold. I didn't think that I had that much. Then he said, "Honesty is the best policy."

Alhamdulillah! I wish that I had asked a few questions, but the man creeped me out a little. He knew well that I had lost a wallet/purse, so why did he make a big point of asking me? He seemed too knowing, nodding his head and smiling in a strange manner. I had my wallet/purse, and I wanted to close the door. I gave him 20 pounds for his honesty in returning the wallet/purse, and that was that. Honestly, I'm still am not sure I believe his story, but it could well be true. Why didn't the other taxi driver return it? I left it in his taxi. No reason for me to think that the man at the door was anything other than a good guy, surely.

What do you think?